Self-publishing and the 2nd edition of Ansible for DevOps

Five years, 834 commits, and 24 major revisions later, I've just published the 2nd edition of Ansible for DevOps, a book which has now sold over 60,000 copies and spawned a popular free Ansible 101 video series on YouTube.

Ansible for DevOps, 2nd Edition - Cover

Making good on my promise to make the ebook updates free, forever, I've published a new revision of the book at least once a quarter since I published the first revision (version 0.42) on LeanPub in 2014, and the second edition begins the 2.x series of book revisions.

The book covers the basics of managing Linux servers, then dives deeper into continuous integration, application deployments, container image management, and even Kubernetes cluster management with Ansible.

I gave away my books for free, and sales increased 4x

In March, I made my DevOps books free to help anyone who wanted to learn new skills during the global pandemic lockdown. In April, Device42 generously extended that offer for another month.

I originally had the idea to give the books away on a whim on a Sunday night, thinking I'd give up a fair chunk of revenue, but nothing too substantial. The response I did get was overwhelming, to say the least!

As with many other metrics during these unprecedented times, book sales shot through the roof while they were free. The top chart is Ansible for DevOps, and the bottom is Ansible for Kubernetes:

Ansible for DevOps - Cumulative Sales over Time

Ansible for DevOps - 50% off on LeanPub for Black Friday 2017

Though I've had a little less time to work on the book lately, I'm still very much invested in keeping Ansible for DevOps the best and most up-to-date guide to using Ansible for infrastructure automation. It's been over two years since the first '100% complete' edition was released, and in that time I have published over 200 updates on LeanPub—and even have full test coverage for all the book's examples, which are open-sourced and available in the Ansible for DevOps GitHub repo!

Ansible for DevOps - 50% off for Black Friday 2017

For this year's Black Friday, I'm discounting the book—50% off—but only on LeanPub. I like to push readers to LeanPub, because:

Self-Publish, don't write for a Publisher

I'm not a writer. I'm a software developer who communicates well. Because I'm a developer and software architect, I spend time evaluating solutions to find the best one. There are often multiple good options, but I try to pick the best among them.

When I chose to write a book two years ago, I evaluated whether to self-publish or seek out a publisher. I spent a lot of time evaluating my options, and chose the self-publishing route.

Because I'm asked about this a lot, I decided to summarize my reasons in a blog post, both to posit why self-publishing is almost always the right option for a beginning author, and to challenge publishers to convince me I'm wrong.

Podcast interview with Len Epp on the LeanPub podcast

Today LeanPub published it's 25th episode of the LeanPub Podcast, and in it, Len Epp asked me about a wide range of topics, including AI, the impact of smartphones on interpersonal relationships, how I got started in computing, and how I self-published a bestseller, Ansible for DevOps, on LeanPub.

A few decent quotes from the interview:

[On how I learned technical/tutorial writing:] Go sit down, sit through all the tutorials, and then write up a guide that will help people to quickly get up to speed on it”. Because the manuals you get with the manufacturer are pretty much junk.

As a technical person I hate the idea of DRM on a book. Because it’s like, when I go to a bookstore and buy a book, I don’t have like a locking mechanism that I have to unlock to read it.

Finished writing my first book, Ansible for DevOps

After almost two years of writing, editing, and rewriting my book, I've finally completed the first edition of Ansible for DevOps, and it's available for sale on Amazon, LeanPub, and iTunes!

Ansible for DevOps cover - book on Ansible by Jeff Geerling

The book is 400 pages long, just shy of 80,000 words, and was a huge effort. It's such a relief to finally have it 'out the door', though publishing-as-I-write has been a great experience. Pre-first-edition, I've already sold over 2,200 copies of Ansible for DevOps on LeanPub!

Here are a few blog posts from Server Check.in where I describe more of the publication process:

Writing on LeanPub - $0.21 per word

I've been blogging for 10 years, and I've written over 800,000 words in posts. As time progresses, I try to clearly convey more information with fewer words. It's been hard to quantify the value derived from those words, however, since the only measurements I could make (e.g. a small amount of ad revenue) have been subjective at best.

For almost seven months, I've been writing Ansible for DevOps, publishing on LeanPub as I write. In that time, I've written ~41,600 words (with roughly 60% of the book complete), and have had ~800 readers purchase the book (either standalone, or in a bundle).

Self-Publishing a Book (on Ansible)

I've published the first portion of a book I've been writing, Ansible for DevOps. This is my first-ever book, and I've written a little about the process of writing on Server Check.in's blog: Self-publishing my first technical book on LeanPub.

Ansible for DevOps cover image

I'm excited about the early feedback I've already received—and I haven't even finished writing half the book! I'm hoping to finish the first complete draft of the book (and continue publishing it in stages on LeanPub) by summer 2014.

Self-publishing my first technical book on LeanPub

Update: Almost two years later, I've finally finished the book! You can purchase Ansible for DevOps on LeanPub, Amazon, or iTunes.

For the past year, I've seen many accounts of first-time authors finally taking the plunge and self-publishing a book on some technology or another, and finally decided to do the same.

Like many of these first-time authors, I felt I was prepared for the project, for the following reasons: